RPW Column: Tyler Corcoran Bests Mike Fowler To Three-Peat At Can-Am DIRTcar Sportsman Champ

Column By: ADAM CORNELL / RPW – LAFARGEVILLE, NY – The most exciting place to be Friday night was Can-Am Speedway in LaFargeville, New York. The Bob Johnson Auto Group DIRTcar Sportsman class drew down to a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat finish that will not soon be forgotten.

It was the Night of Champions at The Nasty Track of the North, and the Sportsman had a tight race atop the points chase.

Mike Fowler, of Fulton, New York, pulled into the points lead one week ago, supplanting Tyler Corcoran, of Central Square, New York, but only three points separated them going into Friday night’s contest.

Corcoran was crowned track champion in the Sportsman class two years in a row coming into the 2022 season and was looking for the rare three-peat performance. Throughout the year, Corcoran owned the points lead thanks to a fast start to the season, including an opening-day victory. Corcoran had two victories total on the season before Friday night, and several top five finishes.

Fowler hadn’t managed a win in the 2022 season, but what he had accomplished was nonetheless impressive. Fowler finished in the top five in all but two competitions at Can-Am this season. One of those non-top-five finishes, he was sixth. The high level of consistency week in and week out by Fowler and Corcoran’s pair of wins and several top-five finishes put the two drivers on a collision course for the final night of point racing. It all came down to one race to decide it all.

After qualifying, Corcoran owned a slight advantage, starting 8th, with Fowler behind him in 9th. To go home track champion, Fowler merely needed to finish ahead of Corcoran for the night. Just about anything else would be enough for Corcoran to overcome the 3-point deficit.

Right at the drop of the green, Corcoran moved up, improving from 8th to 4th position by lap three. Fowler wasn’t so lucky, getting blocked on the inside and having to maneuver around slower cars to get a clear path to the front. By lap four, Corcoran was eyeing third position, which was held by Eric Nier, of Carthage, New York. Corcoran was just past Nier as a caution came out when David Rogers, of LaFargeville, New York, and third in the points chase, lost power and spilled oil along the track. Rogers’ night was over, but the caution put Corcoran in a position to challenge the leaders, Franklin Mackin, of Russell, New York and Ryan Shanahan, of Carthage, New York.

Shortly after the return to green-flag racing, Corcoran was around Mackin and challenging Shanahan for the lead. Meanwhile, Mike Fowler also took advantage of the caution and moved into fourth position, ready to make his charge to the front for the second half of the race.

With just five laps remaining, another caution came out, eliciting a single file restart. It was Shanahan, Corcoran, Nier and Fowler all lined up for a five-lap shootout to the finish. As the green flag came out and the drivers fired out of turn four, Corcoran looked to have a fast lane around Shanahan for the lead. But it was all for naught. Three cars got entangled with each other on the restart and caution came out once again to give everyone another go at it.
On the second restart, Corcoran found his lane once again and motored past Shanahan for the lead, while Fowler remained stuck in fourth. As the final laps ticked off the counter, it looked like Corcoran was going to cruise to the win and the championship.

Mike Fowler wasn’t done yet. He found an extra gear in the final lap and moved past Shanahan and Nier to take over second and desperately try to catch Corcoran. Hoping for a miracle or another caution, Fowler saw his chance at the championship slip away as Corcoran rounded turns three and four, hitting his marks and accelerating to the waving checkered flag.

As heart-breaking as the results were for Fowler, there was nothing for him to be ashamed of. He had one of the most consistently run seasons a driver could ever hope for and it put him within a hair’s breadth away from going home with the track championship. As it was, with Corcoran crossing the finish line in first place and Fowler in second, Corcoran was able to leap-frog ahead and secure the championship by a one-point margin. It does not get any closer than that.

David Rogers’ DNF for the night moved him back down the leaderboard, giving Gavin Eisele of LaFargeville, New York third position in points.

“It’s definitely so surreal to win three in a row,” Corcoran said, after the race. “It was definitely a hard-earned one. I tried doing everything I could. Top and bottom. I saw the yellow [with five laps remaining] and said ‘Thank God!’ We had that first restart, and I thought he [Ryan Shanahan] knew what I was going to do with him. Then we got another shot at it and I had a helluva restart and got it. Coming into this one I knew I had to go out there and get it to seal the deal. It’s definitely a hell of an accomplishment. This gives us good momentum going into the series race we have next week.”

The thrill and exhilaration of the final laps of racing were the stuff dirt-track dreams are made of. It was an exceptional culmination to an incredible season and makes waiting for next season all the more difficult.

Race fans have one final week of racing to enjoy at Can-Am Speedway before the gates are locked and the facility is winterized. DIRTcar roars into town with a series spectacle, The Showdown in September, which will feature the Whitesboro Plow Shop DIRTcar 358 Modifieds in a 60-lap DIRTcar series race with a $4,000 payday for the winner. The Bob Johnson Auto Group Sportsmans will get a chance to duke it out one last time for the year in the 4th Annual John Burr Memorial. The FABCO DIRTcar Prostocks will have their Night of Champions as the point leader will be crowned at night’s end, and the Marsha Gibbons TLC Real Estate Thundercars will compete for the biggest payday of the year when they take to the track for the Ron White Memorial race, with $1,000 on the line.

One last night of racing remains. If it’s anything like last Friday’s competition in the Sportmans, it is an absolute do-not-miss event.

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